Woman Playing the Lute (1624 – 1626) by Hendrick Terbrugghen

Woman Playing the Lute - Hendrick Terbrugghen - 1624 - 1626

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Artwork Information

TitleWoman Playing the Lute
ArtistHendrick Terbrugghen
Date1624 - 1626
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions71 x 85 cm
Art MovementTenebrism
Current LocationKunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

About Woman Playing the Lute

The artwork titled “Woman Playing the Lute” is a creation of the Dutch artist Hendrick Terbrugghen, painted during the years 1624 to 1626. This oil on canvas masterpiece measures 71 by 85 centimeters and beautifully exemplifies the tenebrism art movement. As a genre painting that also aligns with the tronie style, it can be admired at its current location in the prestigious Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria.

The artwork captures a scene that is intimate and candid, featuring a woman engrossed in the act of playing a lute. The figure is presented with a striking realism, characteristic of genre paintings, where ordinary moments of daily life are depicted with great detail and care. Her gaze is not directly towards the viewer, but slightly averted, suggesting a moment of concentration or a brief pause in her music-making.

Terbrugghen demonstrates mastery of tenebrism—a style noted for its dramatic use of light and shadow, emanating from the school of Caravaggio—by casting the woman in a dark background, highlighting her visage, upper body, and the lute with a source of light that seems to originate from beyond the canvas. The resulting contrast accentuates the textures and forms within the composition, from the softness of her skin to the intricate patterns on her garments, adding a tactile dimension to the visual experience. The lute, a central element, is rendered with fine craftsmanship, each string and the wood grain of the instrument are portrayed with attentive precision.

Furthermore, the scattered sheets of music that occupy the lower right portion of the artwork suggest a moment caught within a broader narrative, as if the woman had been selecting a piece to play or had been interrupted in her practice. It is this sense of narrative along with the rich depiction of the figure and the interplay between light and shadow that makes “Woman Playing the Lute” a compelling and evocative piece from the 17th century.

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